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Comparing Mechanical Engineering to Plastic Thermoforming

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I didn’t think Mechanical Engineering would play such a large role in plastic thermoforming.

Throughout my internship I am learning all about the plastic thermoforming process and how it works. Along with that, I am also learning more and more about the Mechanical Engineering field. The idea behind thermoforming plastic is to heat a plastic sheet to forming temperature and then apply a vacuum to shape that plastic to a specific mold. In reality, thermoforming does have a lot to do with engineering from the design process to 3D modeling to manufacturing.

In my project I deal with plastic polymers. Polymers play a large role in today’s world, in any industry. They are widely used in applications such as elastomers, injection molds, and plastics. In Mechanical Engineering you learn about properties of different composite materials such as polymers. You understand how they work and the basic structure behind them. I need to determine melting points and find out the time duration to reach that specific temperature to form an object. Packaging primarily uses plastic polymers; therefore I need to have a good understanding of them and from past classes, I do.

3D modeling is a huge part of my project; I have to design a plastic tray to meet specific constraints. As a Mechanical Engineer, in the future I will be dealing with all sorts of 3D modeling, no matter what industry I enter. I would say 3D modeling is one of the fundamentals to being a Mechanical Engineer. I have had previous experience in 3D modeling, but not much. This project has largely improved my 3D modeling and dimensioning skills. Having a design and seeing that idea of your design become a reality is a remarkable feeling.

The fabrication process is another important step in my project, and understanding how the process works is critical. After the initial design is created, the next step is to fabricate that part. During the fabrication process multiple tools are used to create a part. These tools include different drilling mills, grinders, or CNC machines. Understanding those machines plays a big part not only for me as an engineer when I’m designing the part, but also makes life easier for the part maker. Then, I know how the process is done and I can visualize how a part is going to be made.

It is interesting to see how past engineering classes can relate to real-world engineering applications. Sometimes students think, "How or where will I use class material in the real world?" At Indium Corporation I can make that relation from classroom to work environment.

Best Wishes,

John